Presented to Professor P. Blair Reeves by Fred H. Huddleston
in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the course
DOMESTIC POLK ARCHITECTURE OF THE EARLY SOUTHWEST WEST OF THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS 1760 18^5
The following study is a continuation of an investigation of the folk architecture of colonial America which dealt primarily with those regions east of the Appalachian Mountains that received settlement by the time of the American revolution.
Like that study, the main emphasis here is to cover the general characteristics of folk architecture, to show their sources and to follow their movement through the frontier regions of the South. The areas under investigation include portions of the present states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
The reader will notice that detailed accounts art placed on selected examples typical to an area. The author feels this is the best way to describe construction techniques and floor plan types.
PART I MIGRATION AND SETTLEMENT
Expansion into Tennessee and Kentucky
By 1?68 the flow of migration had reached the southern extremity of the Valley of Virginia and pioneers who had moved eastward over the Btue Ridge ?nd settled on the upper waters of the Dan now recrossed the moimtalns and settled in the Hols ton Valley, thus laying the foundations of the future state of Tennessee. Several of the long parallel valleys lying west of the Alleghenles had also been penetrated, but British policy and the Indian menace prevented a movement into the Kentucky country until the Revolution.
In 1775 the first permanent settlements were made almost simultaneously at Harrodsburg and Boonesboroughw By the northern route came the Scotch Irish of western Pennsylvania and the upcountry Virginians made their way westward, while the southern route was used chiefly by those fro'a the piedmont and Valley regions of Virginia, Two streams of migration first moved down the mountains into the West but by 1800 these had reached flood tide, pouring onto the lowlands of Kentucky and Tennessee. The earliest effective crossing of the mountains was through gaps leading from western Virginia and North Carolina to the headwaters of the Tennessee River of eastern Tennessee, known as the Watauga region, during the decade of the 1760,s. This settlement's pent-up force flowed north through the Cumberland Gap moving
Early Routes of Travel
[ Reservoirs of Population
(Counties accordin3 to Censusi/s>om
Wilderness Road and Tributary Routes
u=0\d National Pike
I-1 Blue Ridge Belt
| 1 Greater Appalachian Valley .
through the wilderness onto the lowlands of Kentucky. During the eighties settlement shifted from this base in eastern Tennessee west into central Tennessee on the Cumberland River. In the 1770's a new stream of settlement had bpgun its flow down the Ohio River.
The road into Kentucky, known as the Wilderness Road, was laid out by Danial Boone in 1775 and la a monument to the skill and practical engineering ability of an uneducated pioneer. It was a mere trail through the trees and around the mountains, suitable only for horse or foot traveler. It was only roughly cleared with axes and not until about 1800 was it improved for wagon travel.
The most potent attraction of the West was the lure of land. To the east the land was wearing out In the Piedmont region. With Kentucky competition, tobacco prices fell, but ever rising cotton prices lured the olanter to the new cotton West.
Planters moved into Kentuckey and middle Tennessee in the 1790's and the first decade of the nineteenth century, but it was not until the next decade that west Tennessee and the lower South began to receive large numbers of settlers. The quickest way to reach the Hlsslsslppe River and the rich land beyond in Louisiana in 1811 was by horseback, with a pack horse to carry provisions.
Expansion Into Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas
During the flush times of the thirties, when west Tennessee and portions of Mississippi and Alabama were in the process of settlement, the Carolinas and Georgia seemed to be emptying themselves into the reservoirs to the west. The main Alabama roads were covered with migrating parties in 183^ with not less than 10,000 $8yei*ed them having begun their journey In the Carolinas and Georgia. After a few years in which migration was interrupted by the panic of 1837, the great stream of movers began to pour over Into Arkansas and northern Louisiana. Many on their way to Texas stopped in those regions either temporarily or pernamently.
In early Kentucky and Tennessee the town preceeded the settlement of the rural areas. This was duf to danger from Indians. Early towns such as Harrodsburg, Boones-borough, Knonville, and Nashboro were roughly similar to the medieval European town. The area in and around one of these stations was slotted and each settler could hold one or more wln lots" or building plots on the town-site and one or more "out lots'* or farming areas. During the day the inhabitants went to their clearings or worked a field common near the station under an armed guard and at night they returned to the station. Seventeenth century Ne-? England villages operated under a similar system. After Indian hostilities ceased, in the last decade of the eighteenth century, squatters and other settlers scattered over the country and settled in the woods wherever they pleased. There w*s a tendency during this petidd for towns to follow settlement or accompany it. Such s strategic points were chosen as salt deposits, crossroads, mill sites, river fords or ferries, the confluence of rivers, and falls of navigable streams, where travel was broken, or where the settlers gathered to have their grain ground or to boil salt, trading centers naturally sprang up to serve the public and often developed into towns. In the period following the war of 1812, promoters flourlsed. There was a tendency for towns to preceed
development. The town-booming mania reached great proportions in the thirties and fifties.
PART II DOMESTIC POLK ARCHITECTURE
The first settlers west of the Appalachians liked to arrive in the new country in the spring making a small clearing for a house. The family had to be housed upon arrival, usually briefly living in crude conditions such as under projecting rocks along rivers and callinsr these crude abodes "rock houses".
Another type of shelter w^s the half-faced camp constructed by setting two forked posts in the ground and placing a transverse pole across the crotches. Coverings such as the boughs of trees were leaned from the ground against the horizontal pole.
The kind of per^ament house depended upon the avai-able help. If there were at least a few settlers he cut logs and notched them, and the house was put up at a house-raising. A log pen was laid up, and if a crosscut saw was available, the windows and doors were cut afterward. If not, he h-^d short logs cut, which were laid up and propped in place as the pen was built. The door and window facings were "scalped" as the cabin went up, and these were pegged to the logs on each side of the doorway, A door was hung on wooden hinges. In Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas the wooden unglazed windows hung on wooden hinges like the door and were known as shutters.
A bit farther north the window openings were sometimes
closed with deerskin scraped thin or with heavy greased paper. Many pole houses were roofed with bark and the skins of wild animals. In the better houses the roof was made of riven boards three to four feet long. Each layer of boards was held in place by "butting poles". These weighed down one layer of boards and kept the next higher one from slipping down.
The more wealthy frontier planter was able to build a more subatanctJal dwelling with the aid of additional assets and the labor of his slaves. The first house was ordinarily a double log cabin with perhaps a lean-to behind one or both cabins, and an attic constructed above. The log plantation house persisted for years. Philip Henry Gosse in his Letters from Alabama mentioned that the homes of even the wealthy planters were built of rough unhewn logs, and many had big cracks between the logs, and not a single window. There was a square hole, he said, two feet wide, with a shutter, which when open, furnished light although there was no need for it since the crevices between the logs afforded ample light. This account can be compared to a letter written by a Mr. A, Beardsley in 1851 concerning the log houses of East Texas 5 "I have stayed in some of thera(log houses) when most of the Joints between the logs were open so I could see out plain and they of course, in that case need no window. Some of the best planters here h?ve no windows in their houses, only places for them and when the wind
blows cold they hang up blankets or raw hides and build a good fire..."
The two-pen log house was destined to affect the architecture of the plantation houses. As the planter Increased in affluence he added to the structure other square log pens, identical with the first two, and cut doorways between them. In time he had amplified it into a four to eight room house. Later a spacious veranda was added across the front. Instead of building outward, the planter might build upward, especially if a sawmill had become available. A second floor of rooms would be added above the originals and a stairway would be added In the dogrun. This form was more common in warmer regions where the need for cross ventilation was accute. The slave quarters and other outbuildings were built at a convenient distance from the "big hotise".
The final type of log house was built on a plan comparable to that of the better early brick houses of two stories, with an ample hall encompassing an open well containing a staircase and large equlslzed rooms to either side.
The Charles Webb house, built about 1790 In Lancaster, Kentucky, is such a house with its pair of chimneys which are seven feet broad at the base and rise almost thirty feet. The stairway rises on the righthand side of the central hall to a landing over the entrance, continuing on the left up to the second floor. There is no
Webb House (restored)
Rankin House (restored)
window in the front wall of the upper hall.
A number of advantages distinguish the later phase of log construction from the first. The timbers were allowed to season properly, and they were squared for a more finished-looking and workmanlike job. ; : i--.
Rankin House, one of the oldest houses in central Kentucky, was built in 178*1-. The distinguishing feature of the residence is the separate stairhall connecting the 13 by 18 foot main room below with the three small chambers on the second floor. The staircase has a closed stringer masking the ends of the steps in the manner of stairways In the seventeenth-century houses of the east coast. The craftsmanship Is evident in the square banisters and newels fastened together with wooden pins and the batten doors with their pewter HL hinges.
Log houses by 1800 were considered passe In the region known as the Bluegrass and people living In them began to h^ve them covered with siding of shlplapped boards and painted even though they would continue to be built on the continuing frontier for almost forty more years *
With the accessibility of clapboards, houses no longer needed to have walls of solid timber. A framework could be erected of uprights and horizontals, braced by diagonal members forming rigid triangles, sometimes filled, and then sheathed. The structural system was identical to the half-timber construction of medieval Europe, whence it came.
It is usually difficult to ascertain the age of frame houses. Those of various periods are similar in construction and have few apolied details, which are easily replaced. An early frame house may be identified by small-paneled doors, as opposed to those having tall upright panels comnon after 1840. Further indications are the presence of chairrailing, and delicacy of tooling on mantels, stairways, and door and window frames, if these exist. A two-storied and a single-storied example best explain the features present in an early frame dwelling. The McCann House in Lexington, Kentuckey; begun in 1797. Is a two-storied rectangular block of wood frame and brick
end chimneys. Flanking a central stairhall are equlsized sitting and dining rooms (measuring 12^ by 23 feet) on the first floor. There is no extended well about the : staircase, which is of the simplest type, having a chamfered post at the upper end and a crude column newel at the base of the railing. The doors downstairs are of the six-panel variety, with the exception of the front door which has eight. On the second floor a large chamber adjoins the stairway; two smaller ones are opposite, with a hall chamber at the front. An enclosed stair way leads from the upper hall to the garret. Fireplaces in the basement attest to cooking having been performed below.
Locuston, as it now stands, seems to have been built as the front to an older house said to have been two-storied, probably of log construction, occupying a larger foundation than the existing part. The long building that this study is concerned with belongs to the decade 1825-1835 based on the reeded moldings enframing the front double doors, and the segmental arches that enliven its recessed portico. The porch is eighteen feet broad and half the depth of the home, with railings, plank benches, and a crude cove running along the inner side of the plastered ceiling, making a pretense at re-flenment. Single rooms, sixteen feet square, adjoin the middle section, each having three windows and an outside door, and a fireplace in a simply built, should-
red stone chimney. Flush boards might be exDected on the recessed porch, but shlplapping was used throughout in this particular case.
The first settlers of the Southern frontiers of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, as in colonial times, brought with them the building methods used in the areas from which the settlers came. Weather-boarding was usually "beaded", the lightest of verge boards substituted for eaves, doors were most often of the batten or of the six-panel type, interior walls might be of hand-planed boards with beaded Joints, and celling beams were often exposed.
Framing for the earliest buildings was of necessity handhewn, with the mark of the adze visible on most construction. The majoriety of construction was of the braced frame type urith corners well braced and the members heavier but more widely spaced than customary In the later balloon frame type. Framing members were mortised and tenoned, or dowelled, wooden pegs replacing r: scarce nails where possible.
Rooms were generally small and ceilings low. Though most of the older houses of the area eventually had porches these were in many cases later:;additions. Most of the houses eventually added front and back porches, the full width of the house. Frequently these were ad- ditlons, built a year or so after the main rooms and the dogtrot. The next change would be to enclose one or both porches, forming extra small rooms opening onto the porch. Construction of these rooms was frequently with sawed lumber, showing that they were later additions. Many porches on indigenous house types had solid, square,
wooden posts with chamfered corners and mortised balusters which are an intergral part of the overall design in these simple structures.
Windows of glass, expecially in the upper stories, were sometimes omitted, hinged wood shutters of the batten type being present instead. Otherwise doors, windows mantels, and interior woodwork were similar to colonial houses of the eastern seaboard except the folk architecture of Georgia and areas further west tended to be even slmoler, and particularly in later examples, the workmanship bolder and more crude. Most houses were left unpainted ^nslde and out though it is probable that some exteriors of the board and batten type were white washed.
One of Georgia's best examples of cragtsmanship is also one of the oldest surviving residences in that state The Old Dominion, built before 1806 at Sparta, though now in ruins, still exhibits the refined details that slowly became fewer and feweE on the expanding frontier. The verge board Is tapered with the wide end toward the eave, thus giving a graceful lilt to the line of the roof. The closure at the end of the eaves is accurately scribed to the abutting moldings. The weatherbbardlng Is beaded, a refinement which was probably done one board at a time by hand. 'The structural system is braced frame the interior contains wainscoting with plaster above on both floors, HL,hinges on all doors, and the downstairs
mantle is Federal in design while those upstairs are Georgian in styling. Brick is used in the foundation which includes a basement kitchen and in the chimney stack while glazed headers are exposed throughout.
Another early example found in Georgia is the Henderson-Fore House In Jasper County built about 1815. Houses of this type, with the upstairs only one room deep and a one-story porch across the front, were popular to the extent that they earned the name of "plain plantation style." Still standing in South Carolina is "Middleburg", a house built in this style in the seventeenth century.
The Cheely-Coleman-Moore House is another structure located In Georgia whose plan, detail, and ingenuity offer more delight to the student of architecture than most buildings. Constructed sometime around 1825 in Hancock County, this large house retains the open dogtrot and has a curved stairway open toithe porch. The dogtrot Is actually closed at the rear with louvers which completely fill the arched opening there. These louvers do not appear to be original, however, as they do not match the louvered blinds which are unique in their own right as each slat protrudes about half an inch beyond the frame of the blind.
The house contains two stairways, the curved one on the porch leading to the boy's quarters 5 the other one, accessible only from the master bedroom, leading to the
bedrooms used by the daughters.
A feature worthy of mention is the elliptical ardh under the porch stairway, the arch curving in two planes to accomodate the steps. The first floor columns are a craftsman's version of the Tuscan column, those on the second floor are an imaginative interpretation of the Ionic order. The cornice is embellished with a board decorated with repetitive holes and scallops, a treatment which lightly conveys the idea of a classic fret with dentils.
Two generations of architectural design from one southern planter family provides the chance to study the progression of folk architecture at its most developed level if the second generation settled in an economic and environmental situation similar to that of the first. The Dickson family, who settled In Wilkinson County, Georgia in the early nineteenth century and resettled In Montgomery (now Grimes) County, Texas in 1841, built a house at each location, both of which have been documented.
The Dickson-Hall House, facing WSW In Wilkinson County, was built by William Dickson of hewn timbers put together as a braced frame, consisting of two identical rooms with appendages. Both masses are separated by a dogtrot with a second level of two rooms one of which occupies 2/3 of the floor area. Principal rooms of the first story have a gelling height of 8*-10'* while the second floor ceiling is 7,-0" in height. The 15
light, 9 over 6 windows of the first floor contrast with those on the second which consist of shutters only, no sashfthe same as those in the small rooms off the porch. Built for coolness, the second story, accessible only by a stairway leading to the exterior at the ground level, is only one room deep, with windows on all sides. The rooms at either end of the wide spreading porch help funnel breezes through the open dogtrot into the interior rooms.
David C. Dickson, son of William Dickson, settled with his family and slaves in Montgomery County, Texas and constructed a two story, four square, braced frame house making additions to the north side in 1848. Though the form and detailing of the structure are derived from from classical design theory, the technology of construction and the floor plan are more common to the previous generation. It retains similar features such as the enclosed stairway accessible at the first floor level by an exterior entrance only, few but large rooms with an average height of 10*-6", chimney stacks on both ends and mantels on both floors of the house, and shuttered (no sash) windows in an addition to the east side. The structure, itself, faces west. The facade conceals a handhewn cedar frame with corner bracing and mortise and tenon connections. The original structure consisted of two principal rooms (one on each floor) and a rear entry hall that acted as a link between the main living area and the kitchen and
front elevation- David C. Dickson House
David C. Dickson House first floor plan (no scale)
slave quarters to the east of the main structure. The interior had wainscoting on the walls of both floors with the area above being papered. The first floor parlor mantle was Federal (Sheraton) in style, the windows of the main structure were 12 light, 6 over 6, and all moldings were apparently planned on the site. The Texas structure was demolished by the owner in 1973 though that of his father still stands intact.
The progression of settlement through the early-Southwest saw the development of specific architectural expressions suited for the climatic and economic situations at hand, be it the dogtrot, deep porches, exterior stairs, porch rooms accessable by the exterior only, single room depths, ceiling heights, materials, and construction techniques. The venacular architecture of this region saw the builders more concerned with ventilation, light, and interior/exterior traffic patterns than with applying the Golden Section to building design, except in Isolated cases.
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Adams, James Truslow. Atlas of American History. N.Y.; Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953.
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Cambell, John C. The Southern Highlander and His Homeland. Russell Sage Foundation, 1921.
Cramming, William P. The Southeast In Early Maps. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1962.
Dick, Everett. The Dixie Frontier. New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 194BT"
Eaton, Clement. A History of the Old South. N.Y.: The Macmillan Co., 1949.
Lancaster, Clay. Ante Bellum Houses of the Bluegrass.
Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press, 1961.
Linley, John, Architecture of Middle Georgia, The Oconee Area. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1972.
Sheppard, Muriel Earley. Cabins In the Laurel. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1935.
Shimer, John A. Field Guide to Landforms in the United States. N.Y.: Macmillan Co., 1972.
Shurtleff, Harold R. The Log Cabin Myth. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1939.
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Writers Program, WPA. Mississippi: A Guide to the Magnolia State. N.Y.: Hastings House, 1959.
1 Forman, Holly Hill, Anne Arundel. County Md. left
0.1667. right C.1730.
2 Forman, Davis House, Perquimans County, N.C.
Walton House, Chowan County, N.C.
Old Brick House, Pasquotank County, N.C.
Casclne, Franklin County, N.C.
Cupola House, Chowan County, N.C.
3 Forman, Persistence of Medieval Styal in Nineteenth
4 Forman, Thornton House, Green County, Georgia.
5 Wilson, Rldgely House, Lexington, Kentucky 1794.
6 Wilson, Post Office, Danville, Kentucky 1792.
7 Wilson, McDowell House, Danville, Kentucky 1795.
8 Wilson, Blount Mansion, Knoxville, Tenn. 1792.
9 Linley, Jordan-Pierson House, Washington County,
10 Linley, Tompkins Inn, Putnam,County, Georgia 1795*
11 Linley, Wright-Phillips House, Johnson County,
12 Linley, Dickson-Hall House, Wilkinson County, Georgia
- early nineteenth century.
13 Linley, Dickson-Hall House, first floor plan.
14 Linley, Cheely-Coleman-Moore House, Hancock County,
15 Linley, Cheely-Coleman-Moore House, porch stairway.
FIRST FLOOR PLAIN!